From my Iranian New Wave programme notes, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 2015. -- EK
YEK ETTEFAGH-E SADEH
Iran, 1973 Regia: Sohrab Shahid Saless
T. int.: A Simple Event. Scen.: Sohrab Shahid Saless (uncredited), Omid Rouhani (uncredited). F.: Naghi Maasoumi. M.: Kazem Rajinia. Int.: Mohammad Zamani, Anne Mohammad Tarikhi, Habibullah Safarian, Hedayatullah Navid, Majid Baghaie. Prod.: Sazman-e Cinemaie Keshvar.
A few days in the life of a young boy living by the Caspian Sea. At school he is falling behind his classmates and almost expelled. He helps his father to fish illegally, and at home watches as his mother’s health deteriorates.
Sohrab Shahid Saless’s debut feature was made clandestinely with the budget and crew assigned to him for a short film by the government-run Sazman-e Cinemaie Keshvar, for whom he had previously made around 20, mostly uncredited shorts. The film was shot in Bandar Shah. Saless, who admired Chekov, chose the location for its “Russian-looking” atmosphere and the fact that it was at the end of the railroad – at a dead end, like the lives of his characters. Mohammad Zamani, who had never been to a cinema, plays the young boy and one can feel the weight of the world on his frail shoulders. Mysteriously quiet and empty, the film’s characters are apparently devoid of any feeling, yet still capable of making an enormous emotional impact on the audience.
The numbing pace and incisive sense of reality creates a world in which the moment of the ‘simple event’ – the death of the boy’s mother – hardly moves the child or the audience; as significant, or insignificant, as the dogs barking or the crickets chirping throughout the film. Indeed the only difference between all such events in a Shahid Saless film involving death is that the latter occurs silently and without a trace.
|Sohrab Shahid Saless|
Always detached and melancholic, in 1998 he moved to Chicago where he died following struggles with persisting illnesses, cancer and poverty. His long-lasting influence on Iranian cinema can be traced in filmmakers from Abbas Kiarostami to Mohammad Ali Talebi.